Accident Prevention and Safety Management
Accident implies damage and injury or the potential for damage or injury. The purpose of any action taken at an accident is to minimize the effect of the accident. If action must be taken quickly, does the school's science laboratory have a Planned Accident Response?
A Planned Accident Response can greatly reduce the time for decision making. A Planned Accident Response means being familiar with the resources (knowledge, personnel, and material) available for reducing the effects of an accident, maintaining resources regularly, and understanding the steps for a rapid organized response to an accident. To take action quickly, prepare in advance for the accident potential of any planned activity.
The action taken depends on the circumstance. Some common requirements for successfully coping with any accident are to
Accidents are symptoms of a problem and if an accident happens once, it can happen again. Accidents can be prevented if the problem is uncovered and corrected. The way to prevent the recurrence of an accident is to discover and eliminate the conditions that led to the accident.
It is easy to take a superficial view of an accident, especially if the result is minor. The result may not always be of little consequence, however, even for the same type of accident. Accident investigation must
Accident investigation report format includes
Investigate and write a report even if there is no injury (see Appendix E for a sample accident investigation report).
To reduce accident frequency, students as well as teachers must be aware, alert, and willing to act. Address student safety awareness and attitudes frequently. A thorough discussion with students should be part of the follow-up action.
Of 33 accidents of the same type only about three normally result in injury. Of the three injuries, one can be expected to be serious.
Accident prevention requires the recognition of accident potential. When an accident occurs, the ability to minimize the effect of the accident requires a Planned Accident Response. Teachers in charge of laboratories must
Teaching About Accident Prevention
Safety and accident prevention should be reinforced throughout the year by teachers modelling and students demonstrating safety-consciousness.
Suggested Lesson Plan
Objective: To develop a safety-conscious attitude in students.
Placement: Before the first lab session with continuous reinforcement throughout Middle and Senior Years.
The eye is probably the most vulnerable and easily damaged part of the body. It is also an important link between the individual and the outside world. Every effort should be made to protect eyes.
The eye is protected from impact injuries by a bony socket, which intercepts large objects before they reach the surface. Tears provide lubrication for the eyelids and wash foreign materials from the surface of the eye. The eyelids close to protect the surface of the eye from damage by small objects. The fatty tissue lining the bony socket cushions the eye against shock.
Despite these defences, the eye is easily damaged. The eye is a complex, specialized organ which does not recover as other tissues do from injury. The eye possesses relatively few blood vessels. Consequently, injuries are much slower to heal and the eye may not fully recover.
Foreign bodies present the most common danger. Particles can lodge on the surface of the eye where they are generally irritating. Sharp objects can penetrate deeply into the eye where they may cause no pain after the initial trauma. Certain types of particles can be extremely damaging (e.g., pure copper and iron particles which might penetrate the eye could result in the loss of sight because of their toxic effects on the tissue).
Flying glass (from an exploding test tube or flask, or from glass tubing breaking while being inserted into a stopper) can also cause severe eye injury.
Laboratory procedures that can generate liquid droplets or splashes include pouring, stirring, blending, heating, and reacting of chemicals. Glassware cleaning and accidental breakage can also cause chemicals to reach the eye.
Another hazard found in the school science laboratories is radiation. Ultraviolet, visible, and infrared radiation damage eye tissue if the intensity level is sufficiently high. The increasing use of lasers requires special eye protection in addition to special facilities and proper techniques.
Class 1 Safety Glasses
These consist of safety lenses in a special frame which supports the lenses around their entire periphery. Safety glasses are commonly used with sideshields. Lenses must not be made of glass, but either plastic or polycarbonate, depending on the degree of impact protection needed. These are not adequate for experiments involving chemicals.
Class 2 Eye-Cup Goggles
These consist of two cups, with lenses and lens retainers connected by an adjustable bridge and a replaceable headband. Eye-cup goggles differ from each other mainly in the type of ventilation provided (see Class 3 for types).
Class 3 Monoframe Goggles
These goggles consist of a flexible frame forming a lens holder or a rigid frame with integral lens or lenses having a cushioned fitting surface on the full periphery of the facial contact area. A headband or other support retains the frame comfortably in place. The goggles may be ventilated, in which case the openings must not provide a direct route for chemical or physical agents to reach the eyes. Subclasses include
Class 4 Welding Helmets, Class 5 Hand Shields, Class 6 Face Shields, Class 7 Non-Rigid Helmets (Hoods)
These classes are unlikely to be needed in science classrooms. For more information contact the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.
An ultraviolet sterilization cabinet should be obtained and used to reduce risks of eye and skin infections being transmitted between students using glasses or goggles. Metal UV cabinets are available with timers and safety door switches to prevent opening when the UV light is on. One cabinet may meet the needs of several science classes.
Adapted from Eye Protective Devices, Manitoba Association of Optometrists. Used with permission.
Eye Protection Policy
A basic tenet of any eye protection policy should be a statement such as "approved eye protection must be worn at all times by everyone in a laboratory situation using chemicals, explosive materials, compressed gases, hot liquids or solids, injurious radiations, electrical discharges, or other unidentifiable hazards."
In the past, some school authorities have banned contact lenses from school laboratories. Information provided by the Manitoba Association of Optometrists, however, shows that there is a relative lack of documentation on the harmful effects of wearing contact lenses in scientific workplaces. Some types of contact lenses may give added protection to lens wearers in instances of splash, dust, flying particles, and non-ionizing radiation.
Contact lenses offer additional advantages that could
These factors should be considered before a ban is declared.
An evaluation of the risks involved is best done by the student, the student's family, and the practitioner who prescribes the contacts. Many varieties of contact lenses are available: hard versus soft, gas permeable, extended wear, and disposable versus semi-disposable. It is difficult for a school policy to stay abreast of all these considerations. The school and the science teacher(s), however, must be informed of the student's decision (see Appendix C).
The student handouts can serve for discussion and review of correct procedures.
Teaching About Eye Hazards
Teachers should caution students about eye hazards and appropriate procedures to avoid injury. Teachers should ensure that students wear appropriate goggles in the laboratory.
The eye's natural defences are much less effective mechanisms than the self-cleansing ability of the lungs, or the self-healing properties of the skin. The eye requires artificial defences, and immediate medical attention if injury occurs. Show students how to protect their eyes by
Burning is the rapid oxidation of a fuel by an oxidizer (usually air) with the liberation of heat and (usually) light. A fire can be started when sufficient energy is present to initiate the reaction. The process of burning involves the three interrelated components: fuel, oxidizer, and energy source. These three components make up the fire triangle. Removal of at least one side of the fire triangle is the basis of fire control and safety.
Sources of Fires
Fire has always been one of the attendant hazards of laboratory operation. Laboratories make use of flammable materials including solids, liquids, and gases. Common sources of fire hazards in school laboratories are
The type of fire and extinguisher used are related. Learn the different classes of fire and the proper extinguisher for each class. An extinguisher may act on any or all of the three sides of the fire triangle to extinguish the fire. Usually an extinguisher either cools the area so a fire will not burn (remove energy source) or smothers the fire (removes oxidizer) or both.
Fire Extinguisher Location and Condition
They must be
The following table describes appropriate applications of fire extinguishers.
|Fire Classification||Fire Extinguisher|
|Class A Fires involving ordinary combustible materials such as wood, cloth, paper||* Use water (dry chemical extinguisher can also be used)|
|Class B Fires involving flammable liquids such as solvents, greases, gasoline, and oil||* Dry chemical foam, CO2|
|Class C Fires involving electrical equipment||* Non-conducting agents (e.g., dry chemical or carbon dioxide)|
|Class D Fires involving combustible metals such as magnesium, sodium, lithium, powdered zinc||* Special dry powder medium or dry sand|
Fire Safety Equipment
Every school laboratory should be equipped with firefighting devices including
Dealing With a Small Fire
A Fire Safety Policy
Due to the frequent use of flammable materials in laboratories, the potential for extensive property damage and severe personal injury is very high. The goal of every science teacher should be to reduce the chance of fire to the lowest probability possible.
A successful fire control program includes
Teaching About Fire Safety
Teachers should reinforce the dangers of fire in a laboratory setting.
Suggested Lesson Plan: Fire Safety
Time: 2 periods
Placement: Lab Safety Orientation (KindergartenSenior 4)
Senior 1 Science Chemical Interactions
As indicated, many of the substances used in a science laboratory are flammable and need careful attention. Burns are common injuries suffered in labs and there is a need to be cautious. Illustrate the dangers involved and control procedures by
The benefits of field trips are often significant. Long after students complete a science unit, they may recall the field trip as one of the highlights of their experiences. Whether the trip involved an afternoon at the local nature centre or a week on a camping trip, it is special. The routine of school life is broken, and students have an opportunity to explore the natural world.
For the teacher, however, the field trip represents a myriad of logistical challenges which must be dealt with long before the event. Each of these challenges has at its root a potential safety problem. If not dealt with appropriately, the consequences of incomplete planning could be disastrous. A checklist can be found in Appendix F.
The primary purpose of a science field trip is to investigate applications of science or to explore some aspect of the natural environment. Field experiences may be classified in two groups: local and remote. Local trips are usually of one day or less and involve a facility such as a museum, zoo, factory, research centre, or postsecondary institutions. Remote field trips often involve outdoor experiences: a bicycling trip through the Whiteshell Provincial Park or a hike to investigate sand dunes in Spruce Woods Park. The element of risk is greater outside, and, consequently, the need for thorough planning is essential.
Local Field Trip
One concern is transportation. Problems are minimized if all students travel together in a bus. If teachers, parents, or students, however, drive other students in private vehicles, find out what liability coverage the school division provides for the drivers, and what minimum coverage the drivers themselves must have to comply with division policies. Some divisions have a form for volunteer drivers to sign.
Does the site itself pose any special hazards? Question the contact person at the site before you arrive, and let your students know about the hazards before you set out and again upon arrival.
Obtain written permission from parents before taking students on any field trip (see a sample checklist for preparing letters to parents, and a Parent Permission Form and Field Trip Medical Information Form in Appendices F, G, and H, respectively).
Adequate supervision is important. Ask the contact person at the site about what adult/student ratio is desired. The ratio varies depending upon the age and number of students, and the site. Students are safer and your host is likely to be more receptive to future visits if adequate supervision is maintained.
Remote Field Trip
The factor which makes this trip special is that it usually involves a more remote wilderness destination than a local trip. You should
A major concern for many educators is teacher and school board liability in outdoor field trips to remote or wilderness areas. The Public Schools Act indicates that the discipline in every school be that of a kind, firm, and judicious parent. It follows that a similar standard of care is expected on field trips.
In addition, if the teacher has some special expertise (e.g., training as a canoe instructor or gymnastics teacher) the teacher is expected to exercise that skill while instructing and supervising students in these activities. If a teacher fails to exercise such skills or care, and a student is injured as a result, the teacher and the school board may be liable for negligence.
Factors to be Considered
Teachers and administrators must assess these criteria when determining the types of outdoor activities. An important factor is the level of qualification possessed by the leader and other adults on the trip. Adults leading trips into wilderness areas must have current first aid certification. One member of the group should have CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) training. St. John Ambulance or Canadian Red Cross provide both types of training (see Appendix J).
Leading students in wilderness areas of Manitoba takes more than just common sense. The leader must have visited the area before taking students. Students should be prepared in terms of environmental conditions. Information to assist teachers in planning field trips may be found in Beyond the Classroom: A Guide to Outdoor Education, Outdoor Education Resource Catalogue, and Winter Activities (see the Bibliography).
Travelling to the U.S.
If your field trip will take you to Bemidji, Grand Forks, Minneapolis, or other sites in the United States, investigate two health/safety issues:
Many students, upon checking with their parents, will find they have an "Extended Medical Benefit" package with their health insurance (those without this coverage may wish to purchase a short-term travel health policy with a private agency).
Inform parents of this added concern in your disclosure letter. Should a student be hospitalized in the U.S., the parents will appreciate the opportunity to prepare for the expenses incurred.